The economic downturn is all over the headlines and it’s making business owners everywhere nervous. But you can join the businesses that are still doing well by remaining positive and applying clever strategies to generate revenue as well as save money in your businesses. Cutting back on essentials is not the answer. The secret is making your business smarter by looking at strategies that don’t cost a lot, but can generate good revenue for your business. Many businesses are now using the popularity of the internet and the array of strategies it offers to their advantage – attracting new customers, adding value for existing customers, streamlining their internal processes and cutting administration time all at the same time. Here are some tips: Get smart about marketing The number one strategy in any business to increase your revenue is working with your existing clients and prospects because they are more likely to buy from you than someone new. An ideal strategy for communicating with your existing database is email marketing because it’s affordable, targeted, personalised and easily measured. Best of all, it has a return on investment of around $50 for every $1 spent (Direct Marketing Association, 2007). Invest in some quality email marketing software then start sending regular emails to the past, present and potential customers in your database to keep your business top of mind and include special offers to build their loyalty. Experiment with different strategies The trick with email marketing is test, test, test until you find what works. Some potential money-making ideas to try out include – a regular email newsletter to keep your business top of mind for your database (you can add value with great advice, tips and special offers just for them), promotional emails to generate instant sales with little effort, or more creative strategies such as seminar invitations, surveys, ebooks and referral programs. There are a lot of cost-effective marketing strategies out there that are made even easier and cheaper by the internet, so it’s just a matter of finding what works for you. Make your website visible If you aren’t actively promoting your website, no one will ever find it and you will miss out on customers. The best way to get traffic to your site is to have a presence on search engines like Google and Yahoo because millions of people use them every day. If a prospective customer uses Google to search for what you sell, does your website appear on the first page? Users tend to click on one of the first few listings, so if yours isn’t there, you miss out. Find a search engine optimisation specialist to help you make your site search engine friendly with keywords and backlinks because a presence in the search engines will definitely boost your revenue. Get your website working hard With a few tweaks here and there, you can really make your website stand out from your competition and actively attract new customers to your business. Ultimately you would like website visitors to contact your business immediately when they see your website, but that won’t always happen so you need a back up plan. Ensure that you don’t miss out on any leads by offering them some kind of incentive to capture their details, such as a competition or ebook giveaway in return for their email address. This is one of the great strengths of the internet – there’s many ways to get a lead so you don’t just have to wait for the phone to ring. Make information easily accessible The internet can also help you cut your administration costs. If you find yourself forever on the phone answering the same questions from your customers, you should use a searchable knowledgebase on your website to store all this common information and frequently asked questions – clients simply go to your website to get the answers they need rather than calling you. You can even upload forms and documents for clients to download to save you printing and postage costs. These things seem small, but they can make a huge difference to your budget and your productivity in the long-term. Streamline your internal communication The often overlooked application for the internet is communication with your staff and other internal groups like suppliers and resellers. Of course you can use email marketing to send memos and organise events, but you can also set up online training videos and podcasts as a cost-effective alternative to traditional training days, have a knowledgebase for internal documents and information and even conduct staff performance evaluation surveys online. These are just a few examples – if you get creative you will come up with many ways to streamline your internal processes, minimise costs and motivate your staff using the internet. The best way to survive challenging times is to be proactive rather than reactive, so getting your online presence up to scratch now will help you save money and find new opportunities for making money in 2009.
The Google Sitemaps is a new program that allows webmasters to create a sitemap of their site. Why is it worth the extra trouble? Well, partially because the website masters don’t have a choice, but also because it leads to the two things that can improve search engine ranking: it’s easier for Google to index all the pages (thus avoiding the problem of accidentally ‘skipping’ key information) and it’s easier to upload new and relevant content. Essentially, you use the XML program. That’s easy enough for webmasters. After that, three options await–ranging from the simple and straightforward, to what we’d like to call “Challenging”. Let’s start with challenging. Of course that’s a relative term; if you’re so comfortable wit your server and so smart you can install scripts in your sleep, then this won’t be much of a problem. You use Google’s Python Generator. You’ll need to install this, and that requires a little more technical know-how than reading “IT Management for Dummies.” How does it work? The search engine gives you a link to a generator. Download this link, and set it up on your server. While you go off and get yourself a well-deserved cup of coffee, the computer does it thing and you come back and find that your sitemap XML file has been automatically fed to Google. Once that’s done, open a Google Account so you can follow your sitemap’s progress and read any diagnostic data. Or, alternatively, you can sign in using your accounts for GMail and Google Alerts. Not too keen on Python Generator? Not a problem. Use is a PHP Code Generator. This program spiders your site, then takes charge of developing the XML sitemap file. Cool–it does everything for you! Except you’ll have to have a basic understanding of PHP files and scripts, or you’ll be lost. Not something for the average Joe (or Jane) who just wants to make a personal website, but relatively simple for professional webmasters or a particularly smart weekend tekkie. If you think Python Generator and PHP are way too complex, or just too complicated, don’t panic. You still have plenty of options–the numerous free online generators that are all over the web, ready to rescue you from the hassles of XML sitemaps. Google itself keeps a directory of these third party suppliers (for lack of a better word), so just visit its website or Google them yourself. One such option that is provided by XML-Sitemaps requires minimal supervision. Click it, and let it spider your site and index as many as 500 pages into a handy sitemap XML file. (Although, if you really do have 500 pages, it may be a good idea to get a webmaster–that’s a lot of content to handle on your own. Then you can make him worry about the XML sitemaps for you.) Once the sitemap is generated, these programs will also let you download files and make minor changes. Another advantage: you can establish the priority of the pages, indicate the kind of frequency you want and adjust it accordingly, and other nifty features that give you more control over your website. If you are doing daily updates, however, you should use PHP or Python Generator. Upload the file to your website, tell Google Sitemaps that you’ve “done the deed”, and let the hits come. XML-Sitemaps.com provides a free online Google Sitemaps generator which will also help you find and fix broken links. About the Author Bobs SEO in Las Vegas, Nevada. Visit their website or give them a call for help with your online marketing.